It's your favourite Friday morning read. Let's get to it!
Potential draft picks
I hate to break it to any fans who are still holding out hope, but the Senators are not going to make the playoffs. They sit seven points behind the Red Wings for the final wildcard spot (with two more games played), and their play of late doesn't make me believe they will go on another amazing late run. With that in mind, fans should be focusing on the NHL Draft in June as something to look forward to.
It looks like they won't finish any lower than 8th last in the league, since the Blue Jackets sit 7th last but are six points back with two games in hand and worse teams rarely make big leaps forward. I'm guessing they will finish 10th in the lottery standings, although it isn't guaranteed they pick there. Since the lottery percentages are quite complicated with the new format, it was hard to tell the exact odds where Ottawa will select, but it looks like they have 11.473% chance to pick in the top-3, and a 64.049% chance to pick 10th. If they fall to 11th last, their chances of getting a top-3 pick go down to 9.816%.
If they somehow did get a top-3 pick, the Senators will get one of Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, or Jesse Puljujarvi, which would be a franchise-changing moment. However, it is most likely that they pick between 8th-11th. So who would be available there? There are some good options to choose from.
After the top-3, Alex Nylander and Matthew Tkachuk will almost certainly be gone. But for top-end defensemen, Olli Juolevi, Jacob Chychrun, and Mikhail Sergachev are all good options, with Sergachev the likely one to be left on the board. For centres, Pierre-Luc Dubois has been phenomenal, with Clayton Keller and Tyson Jost also being available. On the wing, there's a drop-off after the first five, with Julien Gauthier and Max Jones seeming to be the only possible picks at 10.
Personally, I'd love if Ottawa could somehow get Juolevi, although I doubt he'll fall that far. If not him, then Dubois would be another blue-chip centre that can become a first liner. There will be no shortage of talent for the Senators to choose from.
Mike Hoffman era coming to a close?
If you are a big Hoffman fan (like myself), I would be a bit worrisome about his future in Ottawa. Let's get some facts first, one of which is pretty damning:
One of the top 20 goal scorers in the past 2 NHL seasons, @Senators LW Mike Hoffman & his 52 goals sit last in TOI/GP at 15:58.— Octagon Hockey (@OctagonHockey) March 8, 2016
Playing your leading scorer from the past two seasons 15:58 per night isn't just an oversight, it's bad coaching. Hoffman sits tied for eighth in even strength goals since last year with 36, the same amount as Corey Perry, Nikita Kucherov, John Tavares, and Joe Pavelski. Since he hardly plays compared to other first line players, he's also fourth in goals per 60 at 1.19 in that span. He has been fantastic, yet he has never gotten the respect he deserves.
He was back on the fourth line again earlier while the lines were given a "shake up," but in the long-run that won't do anything to make Hoffman or the team better. It's worrying when someone like Elliotte Friedman questions whether these are the last games he will play as a Senator:
Are we looking at the final 15 games of Mike Hoffman's tenure in Ottawa? Sure looks like it...Unless the Senators believe in him enough to offer a lengthy extension, and their usage certainly indicates doubt, you can't let him walk for nothing.
It's clear that Hoffman is not entirely trusted by the organization, as Mark Stone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau were able to get three year deals in the summer, but Ottawa didn't want to go long-term with Hoffman before he could prove himself again---which is what he has done. Despite that, he ends up with the short end of the stick a lot of the time.
Ottawa will have a hard time affording his new contract, and they have the perfect excuse to trade him now since he's costly and "isn't able to produce over the course of the season." I really do not know what the Senators intend to do with him in the off-season, but they better get it right. Keeping him should be priority number one, but if they are hell-bent on trading him, they need to get some quality back, or else there will be backlash for years.
Terrible showing last night
Most Senators fans have hit their boiling point already. But for the few holdouts, I'd imagine that last night was when you finally said "this team is killing me." The Panthers have been a good team this year, and it is hard to win on the road, but a 6-2 loss is unacceptable no matter who the opponent is.
Ottawa looks so lost in the defensive zone, and there's absolutely no way you can say that their defense corps is fixed just by adding Dion Phaneuf. This was just another horrible loss (amongst many) that we have seen too often over the past few years. In fact, they are in quite "elite" company:
Most times allowing 6+ goals since 2013-14 (Eastern Conference teams):— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) March 11, 2016
Toronto - 19
Ottawa - 16
Buffalo - 16
This has been a long season, and there are still 13 games to go. Let's just hope that there's some real change in the off-season, because I can't watch anymore games like that next year.
Mark Stone is so damn loveable
Onto some brighter things...Have you not heard? Mark Stone is the absolute best. Not only has he averaged 61 points per 82 games in his career, he is also extremely responsible in his own zone. He leads the league in takeaways---and it's not even close (he has 119, with Jeff Skinner 2nd at 62). He really is a complete player that can be described as a sniper, a power forward, and even a two-way forward.
But the best part about watching Stone is how much he loves to play the game. Take the game against Carolina for instance when Ryan Dzingel made it 2-0 for Ottawa. This is how he reacted:
over enthusiastic, or properly enthusiastic, Mark Stone? pic.twitter.com/I8LhujNkTZ— Stephanie (@myregularface) March 9, 2016
This isn't something new either, as we have seen his passion many times this year and last:
Hockey tough: Mark Stone shakes off skate to face, scores https://t.co/942UkW6qeM pic.twitter.com/MsRf0g2QbV— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) February 7, 2016
MARK STONE'S FACE HAS GONE MAINSTREAM RT @Wham_City: pic.twitter.com/IyNxJdP2Br— Mike (@gosensgo101) April 8, 2015
Isn't it nice to see a player act like such a character (in a good way) that wants to win so badly? Sure, guys like Mark Borowiecki want to win badly too, but Stone has the ability to single-handedly win a game every now and then. I'm not saying that his passion makes him a better player or anything, but it's amazingly entertaining to watch him play every night because he's so good, but also because we laugh at how funny he celebrates goals and makes weird faces.
Cherish Stone, Sens fans. He's a keeper.
Where were we last year?
One year ago today, Ottawa was seven points out of a playoff spot, with one game in hand. They were coming off a huge loss against the Bruins that made it seem like their chances might be over, but the next game they would score five straight goals against the Canadiens to win 5-2, which set the tone for a seven-game winning streak.
So exactly one year ago today, there was lots of panic among fans after losing to Boston, but on the 12th, the excitement was back up again. Let's watch the fourth goal by Erik Karlsson that proved he can teleport:
Ah memories. Those were better, simpler times.